Ashkenaz Festival 2022 will present the North American premiere of BAS SHEVE from the Yiddish opera Henekh Kon

The 2022 Ashkenaz Festival will present the North American premiere of Henekh Kon’s BAS SHEVE based on the controversial biblical story of David and Bathsheba – This is the first Yiddish opera to be presented in Canada. The concert-style performance features UCLA Philharmonia and RCM Glenn Gould School soloists, including Jaclyn Grossman in the lead role, performed at Glenn Gould Studio, August 31-September 2, 2022.

The only known pre-Holocaust Yiddish opera ever performed after its 1924 premiere in Warsaw, the work lay forgotten for decades before the only known extant manuscript was discovered by German musicologist Dr Diana Matut in 2017. that Matut discovered 16 pages missing from the original score, she enlisted Toronto Yiddishist (and New York Times bestselling author) Michael Wex to complete the libretto. The famous klezmer musician, composer and ethnomusicologist Joshua Horowitz was recruited to orchestrate the whole piece and fill in the missing musical parts.

The Ashkenaz Festival will present an all-new concert version of “Bas-Sheve,” produced through a trinational partnership with Germany’s Yiddish Summer Weimar and the Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at UCLA in Los Angeles. The production will be conducted/directed by Neal Stulberg and will feature the UCLA Philharmonia, with soloists from Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music including Jaclyn Grossman in the lead role of Bathsheba, as well as Jonah Spungin, Marcel d’Entremont and Geoffrey Schellenberg. Presented in the form of an oratorio-style concert, the performances will be enriched with multimedia projections and translations of surtitles, both created by the German artist Yeva Lapsker.

Produced only once before in its newly restored form (in Germany in 2019, the highlights of which can be seen in this video), “Bas Sheve” will be the first Yiddish-language opera ever performed in Canada. With a cast of artists and curators spanning three countries and featuring 40 performers on stage, this will be one of the most ambitious and innovative events ever produced by the Ashkenaz Festival since its inception in 1995.

Eric Stein, Artistic Director of the Ashkenaz Festival, comments: “In addition to its obvious musical significance and the fascinating story of its resurrection and restoration, this opera, written 100 years ago about events in the Biblical times, tackles timely and disturbing themes of rape, murder and the abuse of power, highlighting an eerie continuity between ancient times and today’s headlines.”

“Presenting ‘Bas Sheve’, Canada’s first Yiddish-language opera concert, touches me deeply as a Canadian Jewish singer,” says soloist Jaclyn Grossman. “As a dramatic soprano, much of the Germanic repertoire I perform uses themes of anti-Semitism. As we work to expand the canon of opera, I look forward to including Yiddish art. It is an incredible honor to participate in this unique piece of Jewish culture and history.”

This year’s Ashkenaz Festival is the 13th edition of the normally biennial event and the first live edition since 2018. The Festival includes nearly 50 other events at Toronto’s Harbourfront Center and other venues across the city.

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